What do Playwrights need?

I’m in preparations for an interview with John Guare later this month for our publications surrounding our production of his play Rich and Famous. My understanding is that Guare is pretty excited about coming out to A.C.T.: we haven’t done his work since 1972’s production of The House of Blue Leaves, and I get the impression that he gets excited whenever anyone acknowledges that his opus includes many gems other than Blue Leaves and Six Degrees of Separation. That is my impression. I don’t know that it’s accurate. I’ll know more after I speak with him right before Thanksgiving.

Guare was asked back when the O’Neill was first being created, What do playwrights need? His answer: productions. Simple enough, right? But where does that money come from? Where does that audience come from? How many playwrights can get a production in a given year? What do we do to support the others?

I find myself asking these questions today after lunch with my own playwriting mentor Carter Lewis, who is in town for the opening of his new play Evie’s Waltz (which just had a successful run in good ol’ St. Louis). He described how San Francisco was back when he lived here, how pick-up readings were not difficult to come by (and with talented actors no less). Later when he was at Geva, he would get spaghetti readings together: playwright who needed to hear a play + actors who needed a free meal = voila, spaghetti reading!

Informal, bare bones, cheap, effective.

I start volunteering with the Playwrights’ Foundation on Tuesday, as one of the adjudicators for the 400+ submissions to next summer’s Bay Area Playwrights’ Festival. I am hoping it will be a crash course in local playwrights (though I am aware submissions come from all over). Once I know who’s out there, maybe there is a spaghetti reading series in San Francisco’s future. But maybe it will be a pitcher-o’-beer reading instead. Actors gotta relax too, right?

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